Over 900,000 people in the U.S. have died of Covid-19 as the pandemic reaches a dark new milestone. According to the latest data from John Hopkins University, over 2,600 people are dying every day — a 30 percent increase in just two weeks. The U.S. reached 800,000 deaths in December, adding 100,000 more to the toll in just 11 weeks. The continuation and increasing cost of the pandemic is a direct result of the exploitative capitalist system that continues to put profits over human lives.
Indeed, the U.S. has the highest percentage of deaths in the world, especially in economically advanced countries. Although the U.S. only has five percent of the world population, it accounts for 16 percent of the world’s Covid-19 deaths, a death rate higher than that of any other country.
Since the pandemic started, there have been 76 million cases of Covid-19 across the United States, meaning more than one in five people have been infected. Much of the recent surge is driven by the spread of the Omicron variant. The number of actual positive cases remains unclear, especially as official numbers don’t account for positive test results from at-home tests.
The CDC says that unvaccinated people are the ones most likely to die, but doesn’t account for the other long-term consequences of infections. Many who test positive for Covid-19 are also experiencing “long Covid,” with symptoms like prolonged fever, brain fog, as well as more severe effects on organs like the heart, brain, lungs, and other organs. According to reports from last fall, more than half of those diagnosed with Covid-19 experienced long Covid, which also significantly affects people’s ability to go back to work or resume normal life after the mandated quarantine period.
In the face of this, the state continues to use vaccines as a “magic bullet” solution. It treats vaccination targets as the big hurdle to cross in order to contain the pandemic while providing no coordinated public health and economic response towards solving the pandemic. Indeed, in the past months, the CDC has reduced quarantine time to five days, heeding calls from companies like Delta Airlines that want workers back at their jobs, regardless of their health status or infectiousness. Schools have been forced to reopen, irrespective of whether there is adequate ventilation, PPE, testing, or other resources that would ensure the safety of both education workers and students, all so that parents can return to work. Even in critical sectors like healthcare, Covid-positive workers have been forced to cut their quarantines short, especially if asymptomatic, and return to work, putting already at-risk populations in more danger.
Now, almost two years in, capitalists and their state have shown that they don’t care about human lives as long as they can keep the gears of this exploitative system turning. The fact that we are inching closer to a million deaths in this country is a damning indictment of this system.
Enough with the superprofits of the rich — we need a public health response that can actually keep us safe. Above all, this means lifting vaccine patents and sharing scientific information to increase vaccine production and distribution. As Omicron has shown, as long as huge parts of the world’s population are unable to access vaccines, new variants, especially vaccine-resistant strains, will continue to appear and prolong the pandemic. We need safe reopenings, with regular mass testing services to check for infections and connect people with health resources as early as possible. We need more high-quality PPE and better ventilation systems. We need economic relief after a pandemic that has squeezed the working class dry while the rich made record profits. And above all, we need a healthcare system that isn’t crumbling under decades of neoliberal cuts, but a nationalized healthcare system that is run by the workers who are best able to make decisions about our care alongside the community it serves.